If you visit an emergency room in the Milwaukee area, the staff may ask you whether you’ve recently traveled to West Africa.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control urged all U.S. hospital to “think Ebola.”
The advice came, after a nurse in Dallas was diagnosed with the deadly disease. Hospitals here are on alert, in the event a case of Ebola surfaces.
Doctors at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa have been preparing for Ebola, ever since the outbreak in West Africa reached epidemic proportions this summer. Dr. Sid Singh is associate chief medical officer. He says first, the staff watches for signs of Ebola.
“Those symptoms are high fever, body aches, gastro-intestinal symptoms, vomiting.” If a patient would exhibit those signs, then staff would ask about the person’s travel history. Could they have been exposed to the Ebola virus? “Once those two are put together, that’s when the red flag goes up that this patient has a possibility of having the Ebola virus disease, so that is the initial triage step,” Singh says.
If a case appears likely, hospitals would then separate the patient from others, according to Alice Brewer. She’s director of infection prevention at Columbia/St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee.
“That means the patient is in an isolation room with a private bathroom and a door to the hallway can be kept closed, so access is limited to that patient,” Brewer says.
Brewer says the hospital would then begin contacting people with whom the patient has interacted.
“We are staying on top of this, we are prepared to respond appropriately so that we’re protecting not only our patients but also our associates and the community as well.”
Brewer stresses that Ebola can only be spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person. So she says, there is no reason to panic.